Coordinates: 10°38′N 71°38′W / 10.633°N 71.633°W / 10.633; -71.633
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(From top, left to right) Panorama of downtown area; Maracaibo Cathedral; Lake Maracaibo and Rafael Urdaneta Bridge; Urdaneta Museum; Carabobo Street
Flag of Maracaibo
Official seal of Maracaibo
"La Tierra del Sol Amada"
(English: "The Beloved Land of the Sun")
"Muy noble y leal"
(English: "Very noble and loyal")
Maracaibo is located in Venezuela
Coordinates: 10°38′N 71°38′W / 10.633°N 71.633°W / 10.633; -71.633
Country Venezuela
State Zulia
Founded(1) 8 September 1529, (2) 1569, (3) 1574
Founded byAmbrosio Alfínger (1529), Captain Alonso Pacheco (1569), Captain Pedro Maldonado (1574)
 • TypeMayor–council
 • BodyAlcaldía de Maracaibo
 • MayorRafael Ramírez Colina
 • Metro
1,393 km2 (538 sq mi)
6 m (20 ft)
 • Municipality2,658,355
 • Rank2nd
 • Metro5,278,448
Demonym(s)Marabin, Maracaibero(a), Maracucho(a)
Time zoneUTC−4 (VET)
Postal coded
4001, 4002, 4003, 4004, 4005
Area code261
ISO 3166 codeVE-V
ClimateBSh Edit this at Wikidata
The area and population figures refer to the municipality of Maracaibo.

Maracaibo (/ˌmærəˈkb/ MARR-ə-KY-boh, Spanish: [maɾaˈkajβo] ; Wayuu: Marakaaya) is a city and municipality in northwestern Venezuela, on the western shore of the strait that connects Lake Maracaibo to the Gulf of Venezuela. It is the second-largest city in Venezuela,[3] after the national capital, Caracas, and the capital of the state of Zulia. The population of the city is approximately 2,658,355[2] with the metropolitan area estimated at 5,278,448 as of 2010.[1] Maracaibo is nicknamed "The Beloved Land of the Sun" (Spanish: La Tierra del Sol Amada).

Maracaibo is considered the economic center of western Venezuela, owing to the petroleum industry that developed in the shores of Lake Maracaibo. It is sometimes known as "The First City of Venezuela", for being the first city in Venezuela to adopt various types of public services, including electricity, as well as for being located in the shores of Lake Maracaibo, where the name of Venezuela allegedly originates.[4]

Early indigenous settlements around the area were of Arawak and Carib origin. Maracaibo's founding date is disputed. There were failed attempts to found the city—in 1529, by Captain Ambrosio Ehinger, and in 1569, by Captain Alonso Pacheco. Founded in 1574 as Nueva Zamora de la Laguna de Maracaibo by Captain Pedro Maldonado, the city became a transshipment point for inland settlements after Gibraltar, at the head of the lake, had been destroyed by pirates in 1669. It was not until the first decades of the 17th century that the first town was settled.[5] Petroleum was discovered in 1917, leading to a large increase in population from migration.

Maracaibo is served by La Chinita International Airport. The General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge connects Maracaibo to the rest of the country.


The name Maracaibo is said to derive from the brave cacique (indigenous chief) Mara, a young native who valiantly resisted the Spaniards and died fighting them.

Legend says that when Mara fell, the Coquivacoa shouted "Mara cayó!" ("Mara fell!"), thus originating the city name — although it would be strange for them to shout in Spanish. Other historians say that the first name of this land in the local language was "Maara-iwo" meaning "Place where serpents abound".


First version of coat of arms with royal elements, according to Discrezión de la laguna de la ciudad de Maracaibo in General Archive of the Indies.


The first indigenous settlements were of Arawak and Carib origin. Around the main group were the Añu tribe who built rows of stilt houses all over the northern riviera of Lake Maracaibo.[6] The first Europeans arrived in 1499.

The city was founded three times: the first time was during the Klein-Venedig period (1528–1546), when the Welser bankers of Augsburg received a concession over Venezuela Province from Charles I of Spain. In August 1529, the German Ambrosius Ehinger made his first expedition to Lake Maracaibo, which was bitterly opposed by the indigenous Coquivacoa. After winning a series of bloody battles, he founded the settlement on 8 September 1529. Ehinger named the settlement New Nuremberg (German: Neu-Nürnberg) and the lake after the valiant chieftain Mara of the Coquivacoa, who had died in the fighting. The city was renamed Maracaibo after the Spanish took possession.[7] The lack of activity in the zone made Nikolaus Federmann evacuate the village in 1535 and move its population to Santa Marta near the then capital of Venezuela Province, Santa Ana de Coro.

A second attempt by Captain Alonso Pacheco in 1569 suffered a brief setback when the city had to be evacuated in 1573 due to ferocious attacks by native local tribes. The European settlement returned a short while later, in 1574, however, for which it was re-founded by Captain Pedro Maldonado under Governor Diego de Mazariegos's command and assuming the name of Nueva Zamora de Maracaibo. "Nueva Zamora" comes from Mazariego's place of birth, Zamora, in Spain. Since its definite foundation, the town began to develop as a whole. It is based on the western side of Lake Maracaibo, the dominant feature of the oil-rich Maracaibo Basin. Favored by prevailing winds and a protected harbour, the city is located on the shores of the lake where the narrows, which eventually lead to the Gulf of Venezuela, first become pronounced.

Pirate attacks[edit]

San Carlos de la Barra Castle, Spanish fort guarding the entry to Lake Maracaibo

The Dutch corsair Henrik de Gerard plundered Maracaibo in 1614, and in 1642 the city was attacked by the British pirate William Jackson. In 1667, l'Olonnais with a fleet of eight ships and a crew of six hundred pirates sacked Maracaibo and Gibraltar. En route, l'Olonnais crossed paths with a Spanish treasure ship, which he captured, along with its rich cargo of cacao, gemstones and more than 260,000 pieces of eight.

In March 1669, Henry Morgan sacked Maracaibo, which emptied when his fleet was first spied, and moved on to the Spanish settlement of Gibraltar on the inside of Lake Maracaibo in search of more treasure. A few weeks later, when he attempted to sail out of the lake, Morgan found an occupied fort blocking the inlet to the Caribbean, along with three Spanish ships. These were the Magdalena, the San Luis, and the Soledad. He destroyed the Magdalena and burned the San Luis by sending a dummy ship full of gunpowder to explode near them, after which the crew of the Soledad surrendered. By faking a landward attack on the fort, thereby convincing the Spanish governor to shift his cannon, he eluded their guns and escaped.[8][9]

In June 1678, Michel de Grammont, the French commander of six ships and 700 men, captured Maracaibo then followed the plundering of several smaller towns as Gibraltar, penetrating as far inland as Trujillo.

Venezuelan Independence[edit]

Illustration of the Battle of Lake Maracaibo

In 1810, the province of Maracaibo did not join the First Republic of Venezuela and remained loyal to the Spanish crown. Maracaibo then held the seat of the Captaincy General of Venezuela.

In 1821, uprisings in favor of independence began to lead to warfare and hostility. The royalists, led by Francisco Tomás Morales, fought with the patriots, led by Rafael Urdaneta, to take back control over the province in the Juana de Ávila Battle, and Morales brought back Spanish rule in 1822 until he was defeated in the Battle of Lake Maracaibo on 24 July 1823, culminating Venezuela's struggle for independence.

Isolation period[edit]

For about 380 years, Maracaibo remained isolated and separated from the rest of the country. Transportation to the vecinity was possible through the lake via boat and ferries. Commerce and culture flowed between Maracaibo and the Caribbean Sea, particularly the Dutch Antilles, colombian coastal cities, Cuba, Hispaniola and later on Miami, New York and Hamburg.

This isolation from the rest of Venezuela was both a challenge and an advantage. The very nature of the city's location made for a population known for their independent thought and character. The history of this region is rife with stories about the creation of an independent and sovereign nation apart from Venezuela, a nation called La República Independiente del Zulia, 'the Independent Republic of Zulia', but this has never come to be.

Come the 20th century, cars, buses, and lorries, with their constant flow of manufactured goods and agricultural product to and from the city port, depended on ferry services between the city and the eastern shore which was poorly connected to the country's motorway system. Maracaibo and the Lake Maracaibo region's economy was more linked to Colombia and the Caribbean than to eastern Venezuela due to the natural route available through Lake Maracaibo then leading to the sea.

In January 1903, as the naval blockade of Venezuela continued during the negotiations with presidente Cipriano Castro, the German warship SMS Panther attempted to enter Lake Maracaibo, which was a center of German commercial activity. On 17 January, it exchanged fire with the settlement of Fort San Carlos, but withdrew after half an hour, as shallow waters prevented it getting close enough to the fort to be effective. The Venezuelans claimed this as a victory, and in response the German commander sent the SMS Vineta, with heavier weapons, to set an example. On 21 January, the Vineta bombarded the fort, setting fire to it and destroying it, with the death of 25 civilians in the nearby town.

In 1908, the Friesland, Gelderland and Jacob van Heemskerck were sent to patrol the Venezuelan coast during the second Castro crisis. Friesland guarded the entry way to Maracaibo.[10]

Building of the bridge[edit]

Maracaibo Lake Bridge

The dictatorial regime of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez in the 1950s set as a goal the construction of a bridge connecting the two lake shores. Various bridge projects for the spanning of the Lake Maracaibo narrows near the city were in the works. The general's government had decided that this "city of independent thought" should be more "connected" to the rest of the country.

Proposals for a bridge design that included rail transport and tourist facilities were seriously considered. The fall of the Pérez Jiménez regime on January 23, 1958, quickly led to a less elaborate design project that was approved and funded by a democratic and more financially responsible government.

The building of El Puente sobre el Lago de Maracaibo "General Rafael Urdaneta" ('General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge over Lake Maracaibo') named after the distinguished general and war of independence hero was opened to public traffic in 1962 connecting the city to its opposite shore neighbors and the rest of the country through a new system of highways. The project was completed on schedule in 40 months.

This bridge construction project was a remarkable feat. Built under very difficult conditions, when completed, it became the longest prestressed concrete bridge in the world. The structure is in constant use and remains today as the most important link between Maracaibo, along with much of the state of Zulia, and the rest of Venezuela.

Modern times[edit]

Exterior of Baralt Theatre

François de Pons, an agent to the French government in Caracas, provides some historical insight into the people of Maracaibo in his travel journal (de Pons 1806). The following excerpts describe the local population of Maracaibo:

"They perform coasting, or long voyages, with equal facility; and when all trade is suspended by the operations of war, they enter privateers. Bred up in the neighbourhood of the lake, they are mostly all expert swimmers and excellent divers. Their reputation stands equally high as soldiers. Those who do not enter into the sea service, form plantations, or assist in cultivating those that belong to their fathers. Nothing proves better their aptitude for this kind of occupation, than the immense flocks of cattle with which the savannas of Maracaybo [sic] are covered."

He also notes the appreciation of literature, the arts, education, and culture among the people of Maracaibo:

"But what confers the greatest honour on the inhabitants of Maracaibo, is their application to literature; in which, notwithstanding the wretched state of public education, they make considerable progress....They likewise acquired the art of elocution, and of writing their mother tongue with the greatest purity; in a word, they possessed all the qualities that characterise men of letters."

Maracaibo has become a large metropolitan city, comprising two municipalities: the municipality of Maracaibo proper, and the municipality of San Francisco, established in 1995, to the south. In recent years, due to political/economic and cultural reasons, many have moved to Maracaibo from rural areas and other cities (including Caracas).

Maracaibo also boasts one of the best universities in the country, the state university, La Universidad del Zulia (LUZ) is well renowned for its excellent law, medical and engineering schools as many other disciplines. Other universities and schools include Universidad Dr. Rafael Belloso Chacín (URBE) and Universidad Rafael Urdaneta, with one of the country's leading psychology schools. However, recent political instability has led to the decline of the universidad.[11]

The Diocese of Maracaibo (23 July 1965) was elevated to Archdiocese on 30 April 1966 by Pope Paulus VI.[12] Maracaibo was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1985.[13][14] Since November 2000, its Archbishop has been Ubaldo Ramón Santana Sequera.

In 2019, power outages and widespread poverty caused a citywide wave of violence and looting,[15] resulting in mass emigration, most of which was headed to the United States.[11]


Zulia's main income comes from oil extraction and refining, agriculture (coffee, rice, maize, cassava, cocoa, sugar cane), livestock production, and mining (clay, limestone, coal and sand[citation needed]).


The municipality of Maracaibo is divided into 18 parishes as follows:

Political Territorial Division of Maracaibo
Antonio Borjas Romero
Cacique Mara
Caracciolo Parra Pérez
Cecilio Acosta
Cristo de Aranza
Francisco Eugenio Bustamante
Idelfonso Vásquez
Juana de Ávila
Luis Hurtado Higuera
Manuel Dagnino
Olegario Villalobos
Raúl Leoni
San Isidro
Santa Rosalía
Venancio Pulgar


  • Venancio Pulgar
  • Idelfonso Vázquez
  • Coquivacoa
  • Barrio 18 de Octubre
  • Juana de Ávila
  • El Naranjal
  • San Jacinto (La Marina)
  • Mara Norte
  • La Trinidad
  • Las Tarabas
  • La Estrella
  • Maracaibo I
  • Maracaibo II
  • Lago Mar Beach
  • Antonio Borjas Romero
  • San Isidro
  • Francisco Eugenio Bustamante
  • San Rafael
  • Ziruma
  • San Miguel
  • Luis Hurtado Higuera
  • Manuel Dagnino
  • Cristo de Aranza
  • Cecilio Acosta
  • Cacique Mara
  • El Amparo
  • Raúl Leoni
  • Caracciolo Parra Pérez
  • Los Olivos
  • Chiquinquirá
  • Santa Lucía
  • Santa Rosa
  • Bolívar
  • Bella Vista
  • Historic zone of Maracaibo
  • El Saladillo
  • Isla Dorada


Maracaibo is one of the hottest cities in Venezuela and all of South America as well. The rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta gives the city a hot semi-arid climate (Köppen: BSh)[16] Attenuated only by the moderating influence of the lake; Maracaibo's average historical temperature is 29 °C (84.2 °F). In the past, the climate of the city, indeed all along the coast of Lake Maracaibo, was unhealthy due to the combination of high temperatures with high humidity. Today, control of plagues and the effects of urban development has largely eradicated these health problems. The registered high temperature of the city is 43.6 °C (110.5 °F), and the lowest is 18.8 °C (65.8 °F).

Climate data for Maracaibo (1991–2020, extremes 1961–2020)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 36.7
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 33.1
Daily mean °C (°F) 27.0
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 23.1
Record low °C (°F) 19.2
Average rainfall mm (inches) 5.8
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 1.1 1.0 1.5 4.4 7.2 5.4 4.1 6.8 10.5 11.1 7.0 2.9 63.0
Average relative humidity (%) 69.0 68.5 68.0 71.5 73.5 71.0 69.0 69.5 72.0 75.0 73.0 72.0 71.0
Mean monthly sunshine hours 266.6 240.8 244.9 183.0 179.8 201.0 244.9 232.5 192.0 182.9 204.0 238.7 2,611.1
Mean daily sunshine hours 8.6 8.6 7.9 6.1 5.8 6.7 7.9 7.5 6.4 5.9 6.8 7.7 7.2
Source 1: NOAA (sun 1961–1990)[17][18]
Source 2: Instituto Nacional de Meteorología e Hidrología (humidity 1970–1998)[19][20]


Main Building of the University of Zulia (LUZ)

Colleges and universities[edit]

Several universities are based in the city:

  • Universidad del Zulia - (LUZ)
  • Nacional Experimental de la Fuerza Armada UNEFA
  • Universidad Rafael Belloso Chacín - (URBE)
  • Universidad Rafael Urdaneta
  • Universidad Católica Cecilio Acosta
  • Universidad Dr. José Gregorio Hernández
  • Universidad Bolivariano de Venezuela sede Zulia
  • Universidad Nacional Abierta (UNA) Centro Local Zulia

International schools[edit]


Estadio José Pachencho Romero

Due to the regionalistic nature of Marabinos, they strongly support their native teams. Maracaibo, and the rest of Zulia, are represented in baseball by the Águilas del Zulia, a Venezuelan winter league team that plays in the Liga Venezolana de Béisbol Profesional, and is based in the Estadio Luis Aparicio El Grande. The city's basketball team is Gaiteros del Zulia, which plays in the Liga Profesional de Baloncesto de Venezuela. Its home is the 5.000-people Pedro Elías Belisario Aponte stadium. Other teams include the Unión Atlético Maracaibo and the Zulia FC in football, the Maracaibo Rugby Football Club and the Zulianos Rugby Club.

In the 2000 Little League World Series, the Sierra Maestra Little League of Maracaibo, Venezuela defeated Bellaire Little League of Bellaire, Texas in the championship game of the 54th Little League World Series. The Coquivocoa Little League team from Maracaibo placed third in the 1974 Little League World Series.

Rugby in Venezuela was first played in Maracaibo, thanks to the influence of the English community based on the Zulia State



Monument of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá

Culture in Maracaibo maintains strong Indigenous influences, from its gaitas, desserts, style, and other customs. Most major houses of advertising in Venezuela acknowledge how different the culture of Maracaibo is from that of Caracas. Studies of both prove, for example, that Caracas' leading soft drink brand is Coke, while in Maracaibo it is Pepsi. This has made many brands create special localized advertising of their products (including several Pepsi commercials spoken by local celebrities).[citation needed]

The Gaita is a style of Venezuelan folk music from Maracaibo. According to Joan Corominas, it may come from gaits, the Gothic word for "goat", which is the skin generally used for the membrane of the "furro" instrument. Other instruments used in gaita include maracas, cuatro, charrasca and tambora (Venezuelan drum). Song themes range from humorous and love songs to protest songs.The style became popular throughout Venezuela in the 1960s, and it fused with other styles such as salsa and merengue in the 1970s. Famous gaita groups include Maracaibo 15, Gran Coquivacoa, Barrio Obrero, Cardenales del Éxito, Koquimba, Melody Gaita, Guaco, Estrellas del Zulia, Saladillo, and many others.

Museums, cultural centers and theaters[edit]

Maracaibo's Lía Bermúdez Art Centre


  • Public Library of Zulia
  • "Arturo Uslar Pietri" Public Library
  • "Dr. Pedro Alciro Barboza de la Torre" Library
  • "Simón Palmar" Public Library
  • Biblioteca Pública "Luís Guillermo Pineda Belloso" (De carácter público, bilingüe y circulante)
  • "Pedagógica" Specialized Public Library
  • "SEDINI" Specialized Public Library
  • "Dr. Nectario Andrade Labarca" Private Library

Notable people[edit]

International relations[edit]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Maracaibo is twinned with:[21]


  1. ^ a b [1]Archived November 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b [2] Archived November 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b mlssoccer. "José Martínez |". mlssoccer. Retrieved 2022-03-14.
  4. ^ "Venezuela - An Introduction". Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  5. ^ "Maracaibo | Venezuela". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  6. ^ Irama Iglesias. "Error". efemeridevenezolana.
  7. ^ Das Imperium der Welser Archived 2012-04-22 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Harry Morgan's Way, (AlisonPress, 1977), Dudley Pope, ISBN 978-1842324820
  9. ^ Caribbean, James A.Michener, Guild Publishing, 1989, ASIN: B00EFKMICY
  10. ^ "Maritieme kalender 1908". Archived from the original on 2017-11-09. Retrieved 2013-07-01.
  11. ^ a b Otis, John (2023-10-31). "Why one family is joining a historic wave of Venezuelans migrating to the U.S." National Public Radio.
  12. ^ David M. Cheney. "Maracaibo (Archdiocese) [Catholic-Hierarchy]".
  13. ^ "Religion: Si to a Demanding Friend". 11 February 1985. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012.
  14. ^ David M. Cheney. "Maracaibo (Archdiocese) [Catholic-Hierarchy]".
  15. ^ Kuntz, Katrin (2019-09-03). "Venezuela: City of Maracaibo in Ruin as Economy Plunges". Der Spiegel. ISSN 2195-1349. Retrieved 2024-02-19.
  16. ^ "Pronóstico del tiempo para Maracaibo - precisa y detallada previsión del tiempo en Maracaibo para el día de hoy, de mañana y de la semana. Maracaibo, Estado Zulia, Venezuela".
  17. ^ "Maracaibo Climate Normals 1991–2020". World Meteorological Organization Climatological Standard Normals (1991–2020). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Archived from the original on 10 February 2024. Retrieved 10 February 2024.
  18. ^ "Maracaibo Climate Normals 1961-1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Archived from the original on 10 February 2024. Retrieved 10 February 2024.
  19. ^ "Estadísticos Básicos Temperaturas y Humedades Relativas Máximas y Mínimas Medias" (PDF). INAMEH (in Spanish). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  20. ^ "Estadísticos Básicos Temperaturas y Humedades Relativas Medias" (PDF). INAMEH (in Spanish). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  21. ^ Sister Cities designated by Sister Cities International, Inc. (SCI) Archived February 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved June 8, 2006.
  22. ^ Frohmader, Andrea. "Bremen - Referat 32 Städtepartnerschaften / Internationale Beziehungen" [Bremen - Unit 32 Twinning / International Relations]. Das Rathaus Bremen Senatskanzlei [Bremen City Hall - Senate Chancellery] (in German). Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2013-08-09.

Further reading[edit]

  • de Pons, François (1806), A Voyage to the Eastern Part of Terra Firma, or the Spanish Main, in South-America, during the years 1801, 1802, 1803, and 1804, New York City: I. Riley and Company

External links[edit]